I am now officially celebrating the start of my pre marathon taper. The worst is over, I’ve reached the peak of my training and (hopefully) the hard work is done so I’ve just got to keep my head on, taper my training wisely, eat and rest right (the best bit) and then turn up on the big day! I spent Sunday afternoon celebrating the start of my taper after the second of my 20 mile runs. On the sofa, feet up with tea, hot cross buns and then a glass or two of wine and a huge dinner.
So what about these 20 mile races? One week apart, one hot and hilly, the other, endless laps with a scattering of hail stones.
Both were organised marathon training races. An essential part of marathon training for me without which I would have struggled to run that distance. Entrance fees well spent. I find any run over 2 hours a tedious slog and can just about muster the will power to run any further than that every few weeks when training. Fortunately in both these runs I wasn’t alone as plenty of other crazy folk were out plodding the same path wearing race numbers. People overtook, I had others to overtake and could look back and still see people behind me. Safety from complete boredom in numbers!
The first was the Surrey Spitfire 20. A regular fixture, well organised race. Nice scenery of the surrey hills starting from an interesting base at Dunsford Aerodrome. However it was hot and there were great big (for softy Londoners like me), hills! I did not have a great run. I find I do not like 2 lapped races. The first lap feels long enough…. and then you have to do it ALL again Ugh! I ran the first lap just slower than target pace (to take account of the heat and hills.) Fine, great. On lap 2 I decided I don’t like races on race tracks either. The first part of each lap might have been flat but 2 miles on hot black tarmac seeing a line of runners going on forever in front of you! Headphones are banned for this race, understandably, because much of it is on open country roads with traffic, and at times the quiet, hearing only birds and runners feet hitting the Tarmac was energy sapping. I weakened early and walked a hill at mile 13 and that set the pattern for the second half. At one point walking uphill on a busy road I harboured thoughts about mugging a passing cyclist for his bike!
The good, (yes it wasn’t all bad) was a great sense of community. Without music, passing runners actually talked and encouraged each other with marathon chat and dreams of ice-cold Pimms! I have to thank one club runner who I chatted to at mile 18 and kept me going to the end before I sent her off for a sprint to the line to beat a fellow club member!
I did not enjoy the run, my mantra for tough times (counting one, two, three, four) became expletive, expletive, expletive, expletive! I won’t meet hills at the London marathon but I suppose they’ve made me stronger and practise racing in the heat might prove useful for marathon day. Not least to remind me the sunburn hurt more the next day than my legs. I didn’t feel great that I’d had to walk so much but was happy to finish in 3.25.
This Sunday it was the Hyde Park 20. A newer, smaller, well organised, marathon training run with 16 mile and (for the very speedy) a 24 option. The race is made up of 4 mile laps so it was 5 times round for me. I thought I knew Hyde Park well, I certainty do now.
A cold start where I needed a lightweight jacket. Then my sunglasses came on and off over the run as we went through the seasons and as I removed my jacket we got to hail. During the first lap I felt as though it was going to be a tough run but I settled into it and got stronger. I had music which helped and found that multiple shorter laps were better than two long ones. Each time I reached a point I thought about only having to run that bit 4, 3 or 2 more times etc. By the time my wondering mind came back to the thought I’d be practically back there again. Some fun young Marshalls, dancing to keep warm, also kept my spirits up as I said hello each time I passed.
I did think I was dead at mile 5 when I was overtaken by Elvis but began to doubt it when I overtook him back at mile 13! It was only going past the start for the last time at the start of lap 5 that I started to flag and the relatively flat course developed hills. My pace dropped over the final 4 miles but I was very happy not to have walked apart from one or two steps through the water stops during the second half to gulp water. A good 20 mile run, I was delighted to beat last week finishing in 3.19.
Surrey Spitfire gave me respect for the distance and strength to face a tough marathon. I learned that sometimes target paces have to be relaxed for the conditions and not to beat myself up and give in, but to dig deep and keep going as best I can (plans b, c and d). Hyde Park restored my confidence in myself because I ran the whole way and felt stronger. I even managed to wobble home (through the park) on my bicycle afterwards!
Note to self for marathon. Don’t be an idiot, don’t be a wimp!